COVID-19's Mask Pollution: Bonus


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In this Bonus Article from the series COVID-19’s Mask Pollution, you will find several of the international pact and a couple of thoughts we put together to summarise the series.


As you’ll be able to see in the previous article – COVID-19’s Mask Pollution: Solution - a key element to solve plastic pollution specifically pollution generated by the pandemic is: legislation. Which means governments cannot shy away from their duties.


Also, as referred to in Masks on the Beach: The Impact of COVID-19 on Marine Plastic Pollution, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) claims that “global trade policies also have an important role to play in reducing pollution”.

Ultimately, the oceans are all linked together, so the measures taken in one country will end up harming or benefiting others.

If developed countries have the means to introduce change but choose not to, you cannot expect developing countries - which most likely are dealing with issues that might be a little bit more pressing - to introduce those changes.



You may have noticed that when it comes to tackling plastic pollution and, subsequently, marine pollution international agreements have not been the most common.


The first one with some substance has been in force since 1983; it is called International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), and covers the prevention and minimisation of ship’s pollution. Although it was a good start, you must not forget that 80% of marine pollution comes from land-based sources.


Below, you will find a number of treaties, conventions, agreements, partnerships designed to reduce/prevent marine pollution:

  • The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), 1969.

  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982.

  • The Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (Basel Convention), 1992.

  • The Honolulu Strategy, 2011.

  • The United Nations Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPLM), 2012.

  • The Pacific Marine Litter Action Plan (MLAP), 2018.


In February 2017, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the campaign Clean Seas. The campaign focuses on eliminating unnecessary disposable plastics which in the long run will end up protecting you. They work alongside governments, businesses, and citizens.


“the campaign has become a catalyst for change, transforming habits, practices, standards and policies around the globe.”


Conclusion


Like we’ve mentioned before, plastic pollution has been around for quite a while, and although there are a lot of mechanisms in place to mislead you into believing that there’s nothing to worry about. There is. And now you know it.


The pandemic came to worsen an already bad situation. Worldwide we don’t have the means to process all the plastic waste we are generating; add the monsoon of face masks, and the future doesn’t look any brighter.


However, now that you have all this information on your side, use it in your favour and try changing some of your behaviour, if you haven’t already, towards plastic.


Yes, organisations play an important role. Yes, governments could be doing more. But always remember this, at the end of the day you are the consumer. You are the stakeholder that all those companies depend on. When more people change their habits, we will have a positive impact on the environment, at last.


For the time being and while we’re still living in this pandemic, be mindful of the kind of face masks you purchase and the way you take care of them. If disposable, make sure you bin it correctly. If reusable, take care of it, wash it regularly and without harsh chemicals, and when the time comes dispose of it correctly.


Face masks’ pollution is another problem on top of all the ones we were already seeking a solution for. If you weren’t before, at least now you know what has been going on and how we can – together - turn this tide.